Today is all about making an itinerary. This is something that I feel is an absolute MUST, but I know there are plenty who would disagree. So hear me out ;) I am a planner- I love lists and the like, it makes me feel more at ease to have at least a starting game plan. Now equally important, especially when vacationing someplace like Disney where there's soooo much to see and do, you also MUST be flexible. So, while I definitely advise planning out your days, be ready to change your schedule. Whether it's just flip flopping the plan for two days, perhaps because one day gets rained out, or just being prepared to cancel all the afternoon plans because the kids just need a day to decompress and relax at the resort pool. Be ready to roll with the punches :)
SO! Here is how I go about planning....
(1) Finalize your dates... more or less
Better to make plans and then have to tweak them a bit later, as opposed to waiting and missing out on getting dining reservations or FastPasses! You should have your hotel(s) reserved, and if you're resort-hopping, plug that info into your itinerary (you'll see in the second row, I noted we were staying at Bay Lake Tower and Animal Kingdom Lodge for part of our stay!).
(2) Decide on parks
The starting point for me is always figuring out which park to visit on which day. My secret weapon is using EasyWDW's crowd calendars, but take it with a grain of salt. We've always had a fabulous vacation, and I've gone to their "Not Recommended" parks on a few days. It generally won't make or break your vacation, but it's a great starting point and they really have great advice! If you want to maximize your visit, especially if you won't be visiting again any time soon, I highly recommend tailoring your schedule to what they recommend. You'll see in the light yellow row of my itinerary, I plug in the park hours for wherever I'm going that day. If I'm park hopping, I'll note the hours the first park opens, and the hours the second park closes.
(3) Advanced Dining Reservations
My next task, make your dining reservations! I plug this info into the grey rows- for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Since you know what park you'll be at, you can go search for eateries in that park and go from there. While you're there, fill in where you might want to eat for other meals. Whether it'll be instant oatmeal for breakfast in your room, stopping in a "quick service" restaurant for lunches, or preparing sandwiches to bring with you to the parks- it's great to have a plan in place for all meals!
Check out Disney's website and see what parades, fireworks, stage shows, or special events might be going on during your stay! There's truly a ton to do and see, so plug in your favorites into your itinerary! Even if it's just noting that you want to hit up the pool one night because there's a pool party, if you don't jot this down, you're likely to forget it.
(5) FastPass your rides
Make them! Add them into your itinerary! You'll be assigned an hour-long time window during which you can head to your rides, so you don't want to miss those! You'll see I wrote down all of ours in purple on my itinerary.